(Reuters) – The group stage of the 2022 Davis Cup Finals will be held in mid-September, the International Tennis Federation said on Thursday, in the wake of players’ pleas against a late finish to the season.
The 2021 edition of the men’s team competition finished on Dec. 5 at the Madrid Arena when a Daniil Medvedev-led Russian team defeated Croatia in the final, leaving players with less than a month before the new season kicked off in Australia.
The 2022 Finals will see 16 nations competing in four groups across four cities with each staging one group of four teams from Sept. 14-18, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) and event owners Kosmos Tennis said.
The top eight teams will then advance to the knockout stages, which will serve as the season-ending event on the men’s tennis calendar and will be held from Nov. 23-27 in a fifth host city.
The season will finish, therefore, a week earlier than in 2021.
“Players and captains were clear that they like the changes to the format so far, but want to avoid the late finish to the season,” tournament director Albert Costa said in a statement.
“The decision to move the group stage to September addresses this.”
The ITF is yet to name the host cities for the Finals.
As 2021 finalists, Croatia and the Russian team have secured automatic qualification for the next Finals while Serbia and Britain have been handed wildcards. Joining them will be the 12 winning teams from next month’s home-and-away qualifiers.
The competition, which began in 1900, has undergone various changes in format, most recently in 2019 when home and away ties were replaced by a World Cup-style finals held in Madrid.
The move away from home-and-away ties — played over the course of a year, culminating in a final staged at a venue of one of the competing teams — attracted widespread criticism.
“We are committed to maintaining the traditional elements and atmosphere that make the Davis Cup so unique,” ITF President David Haggerty said, adding that the governing body remains committed to the recent changes to the competition.
“At the same time, we’re aware we also need to remain flexible to the needs of nations, players, fans and the game as a whole.”
(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly; editing by Toby Davis)